Conceptions of outsiders to the polity

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The Internet subcorpus features a variety of sources on the right and left of the political spectrum, all engaged in contesting different aspects of mainstream political and scientific culture. Topics such as migration, climate change, democracy, protest movements, race, identity, neoliberalism, sexism and taxation all receive extensive attention.

Focusing on a topic such as migration, it is possible to interrogate the avowed politics of the radical left through a critical discourse analysis of the way in which migrants and similar categories of outsiders are talked about in left leaning outlets such as ROAR Magazine, Discover Society, Mother Jones and Open Democracy.


Research steps

  • Select the relevant outlets from the subcorpus selection interface:

  • Make a list of lexical items directly relevant to the topic of migration – perhaps focusing on those that refer to people, the most important here being migrant*, refugee* and asylum seeker*, given the distinction in mainstream discourse between economic migrants and political refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Use the concordancing interface and the Mosaic plugin to examine strong collocational patterns that reveal particular conceptualisations of these modern instantiations of outsiders to the polity.
  • You might note, for instance, that these patterns may differ from one outlet to another, but that on the whole there is a tendency for authors on the left of the political spectrum to reproduce dominant discursive patterns (such as the distinction between economic migrants and political refugees, or the tendency to speak of a ‘refugee crisis’) even as they set out to challenge mainstream attitudes towards migrants.
  • A further step might involve selecting English translations of Ancient Greek texts in the Modern Corpus to examine alternative patterns associated with the same lexical items or similar ones emerging from quite different historical, cultural and political contexts (while migrant* for instance is not found in any of the Greek-English translations currently contained in the Modern English corpus, the term exile* is very frequent, returning 1097 concordance lines). Examining this material may reveal a range of conceptualisations and different categories of the outsider that overlap with those identified in the Internet subcorpus in some respects and diverge in others.


Further reading

Baker, Mona (in press/2020) ‘Aspirational Exploitations of Corpus Evidence: Conceptualizing outsiders to the polity in ancient Greek, modern English translations, and radical Internet discourses’, in Mona Baker and Henry Jones (eds) Genealogies of Knowledge: Tracing the Mediation of Political and Scientific Concepts across Time and Space. Special issue of Palgrave Communications.